Flying out of my comfort zone

I’ve been branching out in my social network lately, taking new people up on their invitations to events and activities. I’ve purposely been signing up for events and activities I previously would have been too shy or introverted to attend. I feel like perhaps I’ve been putting too many eggs in one basket and it’s time for me to branch out–meet new people, try new activities, scare myself on a daily basis to become the person I want to be. This personal growth has really been rewarding. But scary too.

In addition to wanting to meet new people in the various communities, I’m trying really hard, as part of a more secret New Year’s resolution of mine, to become the person I want to be. What do I want to be? Well, I think that’s developing as I explore. All of my explorations, however, are taking me to the ultimate goal of getting something of mine published. I have to put my foot in the doorway to stop the doors from closing in my face and in that regard I need to be more aggressive. And I need to feel more confident in myself. You can only get confidence from forcing yourself to fly out of your comfort zone and explore previously uncharted territory. Sometimes you learn the most amazing things about yourself.

One of the activities I took part in over the last few weeks was to check out the Fagowees ski club, which is something I’ve wanted to do for several years now. I was told by another local ski club that the Fagowees are a bit of a partying group and it was suggested I might like to hang out with them (What? Do I have “party girl” written all over my Martian face or something?). I was as nervous as heck, but I showed up for one of their bi-weekly meetings by myself. I became the person I hate most–meek and quite Mars Girl–for the first part of the meeting until someone came around and made sure I was introduced to the other people at my table. The next thing I knew, I had someone to talk to. And, to top it off, one of the bar tenders happened to be someone I had met once at an ABC party! The next thing I knew, I was hanging out way-too late having one-too-many-beers with a few of the stragglers at the bar until the meeting totally dispersed. Go figure.

I don’t know how permanent my relationship with the Fagowees will be at this point, but I’m definitely willing to check them out now. I signed up for one of their weekday bus trips–to Holimont–for February. I expect to have a good time. I’m not so much into partying before or during skiing, but I can definitely say that I am totally willing to get in on the action after skiing. This means that on the way to Holimont, I will sit at the front of the bus with the other “stiffs” and on the way back from Holimont, I will be sitting in the back with the crazy people. Hopefully, I will meet some more new people, which is my ultimate goal in hanging out with a ski club.

This past Friday, I performed another maneuver outside of my comfort zone by reading some haiku poems I wrote this year (see the “poetry” category link in the right bar) at the Haiku Death Match (aka Nuku) at First Draft, which my friend Joanna hosts, in Columbus. I didn’t compete, but I did volunteer to read some of my poems during open mic. It was as scary as hell, but totally invigorating. I purposely chose my sexy bicycle haiku–a poem with sexual overtones to cycling–and it went over extremely well. I should have used it as my closer as all my other poems were much more serious and that was quite a rowdy bunch that night.

You’d probably think that as an artist I’d have done something like open mic at a poetry slam before. Not the case. In fact, attending Nuku last year was the first time I’d ever been to a poetry slam. Shameful, I know. I have to say that being around all the artistic people and their zealous passion for the art form inspired me last year and this year, it inspired me to really seriously consider my focus on writing. I’ve never before considered myself a poet. It’s not my usual form of expression and when I do it, I generally think my work sucks. However, I think I’ve really found my place in haiku. It forces me to keep my thoughts brief and on-point to convey a full-sensory experience for a reader. In haiku, the point is to tell less and show more. It really hones my thoughts to a level of conciseness I obviously need. As the readers of my blog, in which I tend to ramble, I’m sure you can appreciate a form of expression that forces me to be brief.

Anyway, I’m thinking of competing in Nuku next year. That’s going to be quite a chore. I have to write at least 10 haiku poems about anything and everything. In the competition, two poets each read a haiku and the judges pick the best one. Points are awarded to the winner; the best of five wins the face-off to compete in the next round (three rounds). There is a strategy in this format. For example, if the first poet recites a serious poem, you can respond with an equally serious one; if the first poet lays down a humorous poem, you can respond with your own humorous poem  or you can throw down a nasty poetic insult in haiku. I think it’s harder when the second poet doesn’t match the tone of the first poem as judges will naturally pick a poem that made them laugh over one that evoked some sort of sad or serious emotional response.

It’s the insults that trip me up. I’m not good at the whole “your momma sucks cows” response (note: that phrase was five syllables). And, personally, I’d rather win a round based on my poetic thought or wit. So I think my strategy will be to come up with a few snarky haiku newsworthy topics. I don’t know if I want to write what we coined on Friday as “fuck you ‘ku.” I am not sure I can. I think I take myself too seriously to do that.

It’s a daunting task. I’m not sure I really want to play to win so much as to force myself to continue doing things out of my comfort zone. I am not too good in front of a large audience; at least, I’m not as good as I want to be. Most people probably accept this about themselves and avoid public speaking all together, but I don’t want to. I like trying to do things in front of audiences. I want to present the same person in front of an audience as I do when I’m in a comfortable situation, like with my friends. I feel, I guess, kind of called to inspire through my words. Not in an overtly public way. I’m just thinking, though, that if I want to promote the would-be book I am trying to write, I might have to do things in front of an audience (such as public readings, one could only hope and dream). I take pleasure in sharing my art with people just as much as I take pleasure in listening to the art of others. Does this make me sound like a complete narcissist?

I was taught to never slap my own back or compliment myself. Be humble, always. So for me to say–to admit even to myself–that anything I do–anything I write–is good is to me as painful as a root canal. I don’t want to become too full of myself. I don’t want others to think I’m full of myself. But is it bad to say that I think I have a talent with words? I’m afraid to say those words because I’m afraid they will render me incapable of ever writing anything good–anything great or inspiring–again.

I think the next place I need to force myself to seek is a writer’s group in the area. I need to get over my fear of letting other people critique my work. I need to form relationships with people who share my love for writing and my drive publication. I’ve previously avoided these sort of groups in the past because of some bad experiences with some pretentious other writers. Writers are a weird lot of people to hang with. Even in my professional occupation of technical writing, there is a bit of catty behavior between writers because somehow we always feel like we’re in competition with each other. Or maybe that’s just me. But I can honestly say, I’ve had some silent, dogged wars with other writers I’ve worked with in the past. More often than not, we were both at fault. It seems there’s a constant struggle to get praise from our superiors one over the other. It’s very hard, I think, for writers to be friends. I’m pretty sure I could never date or marry another writer. (Fortunately, I’m usually attracted to science geeks.)

However, attending Nuku has shown me that this is not always the case. At least to an outsider such as myself, the world I see at First Draft is filled with excited, vibrant people who don’t appear to be too full of themselves. (The only ones who did seem that way were not a part of the group, such as the hipster Toledo guy who got smart with Joanna and performed a dramatic piece of dribble. Fortunately, everyone else was in tune to his snotty M.O. and he a prompt verbal whipping from Joanna; a cold, restrained shoulder from the audience; and a haiku smack in the face from one of the competitors later in the show.) I saw an environment in which writers could coexist in one room without animosity and share each other’s art–even compete–without letting out the claws. I was pleased. I was inspired.

I figure if it can happen in Columbus, it can happen in Akron. (I’m going to try there first as driving into Cleveland regularly can be somewhat of a hassle.) I’ve gotta find my people. I feel so invigorated by the artist scene. It’s time for me to really follow my dreams. I’m going to be 35 in March and it saddens me that as a kid I dreamed and dreamed of writing a book and I thought back then it would happen a lot sooner. I can’t let the dream die. I know I have talent. I know I have a story to tell here. Once I get this memoir out, I probably have a lot more stories to tell too. I’ve got to work towards getting myself to where I want to be. I don’t want to be sitting here, years later, talking about an opportunity I never even had the balls to explore.

Writing is so hard. Some days you hate it. But when you get beyond the fears and the writer’s block and all the distractions that keep you from facing it, you find yourself in this beautiful place where words just flow out of you in a burning fever. It’s a high like no other. Reality dissolves around you and you’re somewhere else, or even back in time in the case of my memoir, and the story you’re trying to tell just unfolds before your eyes. I miss that land of vision. It’s so hard to get there. But once you find that doorway in, it’s real and true magic.

Whenever I listen to a writer interviewed on a show or podcast, they always describe this place and I understand like a recovering drug-addict listening to Pink Floyd. They’re talking in their visions and I’m depressed/jealous because the plain of consciousness they are describing is one I can no longer access (easily). It makes me sad. It also makes me realize that I wasn’t crazy all those years ago as a high school kid, writing 200 page fan-fiction Star Trek novels all summer long, when I thought I could see all the action I was writing just as clearly as I could “see” the events of any book I’d ever read.

Well, anyway, it’s going to be hard work. I’m going to have to force myself to scale back my social life a little and concentrate on balancing my time better. However, I think everything I’ve done in the last several weeks to foster new relationships and take part in new experiences has really done me a lot of good. I’m really starting to know people in my church and I’m loving every moment of being there. I think that attending to my spiritual life is also helping to mend the pieces of myself that are a little broken as well as forcing me to come out of my shell a little. (I know many of you who know me do not think of me as shy, but I have my moments when I’m in unfamiliar territory.) Every invitation I accept from a new friend makes me braver and braver to reach out to people, to extend myself to others, and to allow myself to know other people. It certainly keeps me from dwelling in loneliness. A life is made richer by the people we fill within it, that’s for certain. And I’ve met (and re-met) some great people in the last few weeks.

I really feel the beginning of some good things happening here. I hope I can make some forward progress. In the darkness of winter, a light has appeared to illuminate the shadows of depression that keep me from making a move. May this light fill every chasm of my discontent and bring forth new vision!

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7 thoughts on “Flying out of my comfort zone

  1. I thought the “fuck you ‘ku” was actually haiku written on the dime of corporate America – the first I remember hearing that phrase during the night was when I was on stage and introduced my haiku as being written while at work. Although it does seem a better moniker for a snarky haiku – maybe my poems should have been called “corporate-ku.”

    Anyway. Writing 10 haiku will be nothing for you. Heck, we wrote 8 for the fortune teller thingy while sitting in the audience!

    I think Joanna gave you some excellent advice on Saturday – re-read your Natalie Goldberg! How could you then NOT want to start pouring yourself into your writing after doing that?

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